Skipping a Day

Saturday, March 12, 2016 - 20:30

I'm always impressed by individuals that are relentlessly consistent with their goals. Two that stand out for me:

  • Seth Godin posts an article to his blog every day without fail for the last 8 years.
  • Michael Phelps practiced every day (including Holidays) for nearly a decade leading up to the 2008 summer Olympics in Bejing where he won 8 gold medals.

Of course, we all have some things that we do every day without fail. Even when getting massively drunk in college, I never skipped a night of brushing my teeth. If I had to guess, my streak of this daily ritual has gone on for at least a decade, and I imagine that is a very common duration for most people reading this. There are other habits that are equally mundane and not as useful: such as the habits of smoking or watching TV. I'm not being judgemental here, but merely pointing out that we all have consistent behaviors, some of them we would like to keep and some of them we'd like to change.

Something powerful happens when we skip a day. For habits that we want to maintain, this is where entropy comes into play. Maybe life got busy or something urgent got in the way. Maybe we had a consistent exercise regiment that paused due to an injury. Whatever the cause, it's critical to double down and restart the very next day. Otherwise, it becomes easier to skip another day down the road, or maybe multiple days in a row. Pretty soon the floodgates open and there are more misses and hits, and the habit is destroyed.

On the flip side, the opposite holds true for a habit you wish to break. Miss a single day, and you prove to yourself that life can go on and that you can make it a full day without it. String a few of those together, and you can literally rewire your brain and its association to this new behavior.

Summarizing: Habits are self-reinforcing feedback loops, but even a single skipped day can become the catalyst for it to be broken. If it's a habit you want to keep, immediately double down and keep your momentum. If it's a habit you wish to break, use this as proof that you can do it again and again until it's gone.

BTW. I was on a writing streak on my blog, but then life got in the way. This is my attempt to not let this very important part of my life to get placed on the back burner yet again.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.